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The Better Dads Festival Launches in Asheville
Sitting within a circle of men he trusts, Micah takes a deep breath and shares that, once again, he’s managed to disappoint Jason, his eight-year-old son. The skate park outing he promised never materialized. Instead, Micah opted to get a head start on his tax returns. Jason is forgiving, but Micah feels terrible, recognizing that this certainly isn’t the first time he’s let his son down.
The men within the circle help Micah identify the impact of his choice, on both Jason and himself. They help him get in touch with the underlying belief that drives his choices. Micah recalls that, during his childhood, the belief that “work comes first” was an ever-present and all-important family value. Parental praise was reserved for a job well done. One of the men in the circle asks, “Micah, is this how you want to show up for your son?” With greater clarity and a desire to make better choices in the future, Micah commits to having an honest conversation with Jason about what he’s learned.
Personal growth work like this happens every week in Asheville’s very active ManKind Project (MKP) community. In fact, MKP supports almost 800 men’s groups within the United States alone. MKP is a global nonprofit organization committed to helping men lead lives of integrity, authenticity and service. Not only do participants benefit, so too do their partners, children, parents, siblings, friends, and communities.
Now, one member of Asheville's MKP chapter has taken a new step in bridging conversations about fatherhood, family, and community. The Better Dads Festival takes place this Father's Day weekend, on Saturday, June 17th from 12 noon to 9:30 pm on the Roger McGuire Green. This free, family-friendly event will feature live music from LYRIC, the Billy Jonas Band, and David LaMotte and Friends. Other fun activities, plus plenty of choices for food and drink, will be available for you and yours.
The Inspiration behind the Better Dads Festival
Alan Kay is a member of the Asheville MKP community as well as the brainchild behind the Better Dads Festival. Alan’s inspiration is his desire to up the ante of MKP’s stated goal of “changing the world one man at a time.” His thinking is, “Why not try to change the world one community at a time?” And Asheville just happens to be that community.
In creating the Better Dads Festival, one of Alan’s stated goals is “a celebration of healthy fatherhood in all its forms.”
Why the name Better Dads? According to Alan:
It’s up to all of us, with all of our diversity, to create the next generation of compassionate, authentic and mission-driven men. Fatherhood is much more than having babies. It’s our collective responsibility to mentor and create a nurturing environment so that all children can grow up in an equitable community. How men show up in the world begins with what children learn in their families, from the media, in their schools and from their peers. Women and men share responsibility in determining how we communicate, maintain relationships, respect one another and welcome diversity. We all have much to share. We all have much to learn.
Fatherhood has changed
It’s estimated that, since 1965, the amount of time fathers spend with their children has more than doubled. Yet, according to research conducted by the nonprofit organization Fatherhood Initiative, fifty percent of fathers don’t feel prepared for parenthood. Many men are participating in aspects of parenting that their fathers never did, and they often feel excluded and devalued, particularly early on in their fatherhood role.
Oakland, California-based psychotherapist and men’s health expert Will Courtenay argues that just because dads are more involved than their own fathers were doesn’t mean that they feel confident about their parenting. Courtenay notes that “Dads may be less inclined to talk about their feelings at a parenting group, but they want to connect.”
Alan shares that, for him, opening up to support from a group of men is a learned skill. “Most men in my generation were raised with the credo of ‘Handle it, figure it out yourself, go it alone.’ I now know how limiting that belief is, and being supported by other men creates unlimited possibilities for me. ‘It takes a village,’ holds true for men as well!”
Come one, come all to the Better Dads Festival
The Better Dads Festival will provide ample opportunity for connection and support by bringing together local mentoring and family support organizations that share a common vision of healthier individuals, families and community. From Children & Family Services to My Daddy Taught Me That, more than two dozen nonprofits will participate in the festival. Local community leaders will invite us to look at how men show up in our lives, fatherhood-related challenges (whether related to your relationship with your father or in your role as a father), and new possibilities for growth and change. Sharing circles will provide a safe and welcoming space for those seeking deeper connection.
And for those simply wanting a good time, the festival will have lots of opportunities for play with dancing, drumming circles, games, costumes, crafts, poetry, and a dress-your-dad photo booth.
Awesome food and beverages will be available on site from community vendors such as Corner Kitchen Catering, Gan Shan Station, Flat Rock Bakery Pizza, Frozen Monkey, and Highland Brewing Company.
The planning of the Better Dads Festival has already created significant impact. New conversations and connections between diverse communities have been begun. Two organizations have asked for help in starting men’s and father’s groups, the first of which will begin in July. Men are asking questions about their roles as fathers. Alan reports that one man, inspired by the mission of the Better Dads Festival, reached out to his previously estranged son. They recently experienced a tearful and healing reunion.
No matter your age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and especially no matter what your experience with fatherhood has been, the Better Dads Festival will have something for you. It promises to be a soulful, inspirational, fun, and educational event. Come to the Better Dads Festival and help create the kind of community you want to call home!
The festival will be happening, rain or shine.
Want to volunteer or learn more about the Better Dads Festival? Please visit www.BetterDadsFestival.org.